Minnesota could spend up to $300M to offset ObamaCare hikes

Minnesota could spend up to $300M to offset ObamaCare hikes
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Minnesota’s Democratic governor wants to pour as much as $300 million into a relief fund for people facing massive premium hikes under ObamaCare in his state next year.

Gov. Mark Dayton proposed Thursday that he would offer “rebates” to help offset the 55 percent increase in healthcare premiums that ObamaCare customers will face in Minnesota this year.

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The money would be taken out of Minnesota’s “rainy day fund,” which got a boost from the state’s budget surplus last year.

But Dayton was clear that his state would need a longer-term solution to make ObamaCare plans more affordable.

Dayton is the first governor in the country to announce his own plan to tackle rising premiums this year, which are far steeper than any of the previous year’s increases. The state's final plan will also include input from the state's Republicans, who are working on their own proposals to address panic over the premiums.  

With the new rebates, Dayton said the rate increase would be limited to an average of 16 percent — below the national average of 22 percent. Last year, the national average for premium hikes was about 7 percent.

Minnesota has attracted national attention this year as it faces one of the highest premium hikes in the country. Dayton himself came under scrutiny on the issue of healthcare after he declared earlier this month that the “Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable.” Under pressure from fellow Democrats, he later walked back his remarks.

In his lengthy statement on Thursday, Dayton vigorously defended ObamaCare while also acknowledging the law is “now causing very difficult financial problems” for some people.

About 123,000 people could receive the benefits, according to Dayton’s office. The state dollars would specifically go to people whose incomes are just high enough that they do not qualify for tax credits from the federal government.

“They are the people who need immediate help with next year’s health insurance cost increases,” Dayton said. He said the “immediate financial assistance” would reduce monthly premium bills by 25 percent.

He said lawmakers on the federal and state level will need to “set aside their political talking points” and work to “solve these current problems and restore the promise of the ACA.”

The governor added in his statement, “Also, if anyone has a better plan ... we are all ears.”